Julie C. Dao
November 5th 2019
Received from publisher
Here’s the thing, fantasy has never been a genre that I gravitated towards. That being said, I never knew how much I wanted a Vietnamese YA fantasy world novel with characters who have actual Vietnamese names until I read Julie C. Dao’s Song of the Crimson Flower.
Having read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, I was excited to return to the same gorgeous world again and see how Jade and Koichi are faring. I also loved how Commander Wei’s role was hilariously foreshadowed when the father of the heroine, Lan tells her she can visit the Gray City if she somehow convinces the Commander of the Great Forest to escort her there. Of course it was also interesting to see the mythology and world expanded from the previous books in addition to how things have changed a couple of years after the events the Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix.
However, the central plot of Song of the Crimson Flower is Lan and Bao’s story. I was looking forward to their love story and while I wish the romance was better developed, particularly on Lan’s part I did find their relationship to be sweet. When it came to other parts of the story I was a bit disappointed. The antagonist, Madame Vy wasn’t fully realized as a serious threat or even as a character. She had the potential to be a major villain, but instead was relegated to the background for the majority of the book. Actually, I was also slightly disappointed that even though the stakes could have been high, they truly weren’t in the end as all major conflicts and battles were swiftly dealt with off-screen. So as much as I enjoyed Bao and Lan’s story, I would have preferred that we had at least a glimpse of the main battle that took place as there was so much hype surrounding the battle/war.
As a companion book to both Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Song of the Crimson Flower is more of a love story set in a fantasy world and not a full on fantasy novel. Therefore, it is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this standalone novel. Still, without a doubt I would say that my enjoyment for Song of the Crimson Flower exceeded that of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Having recently returned from a trip to Huế which was one the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty as well as the Đàng Trong Kingdom, I was able to better appreciate the rich setting and characters in this book. Beautifully written though not incredibly action packed, Song of the Crimson Flower may be more suited to those who are looking to dip their toes into the fantasy genre rather than for fans of true high or epic fantasy.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.